NHL 08 is EA’s latest game in their popular NHL franchise which has been running for over a decade. Thankfully, this isn’t just a lazy game by EA either—they haven’t simply updated the teams and graphics. Instead, they have added a wealth of new features to make the game last longer and to make the experience more realistic. Does it work? It does actually, and pretty damn well too.
The control method for NHL 08 takes some getting used to if you didn’t play last year’s NHL 07. For those of you who aren’t aware of the changes EA made to the franchise, NHL 07 moved shooting and puck-handling to the right-stick. All of the mechanics of last year’s game is intact, while the most notable addition to the gameplay is a one-on-one deke move, which allows you unleash some sick moves on your opponents. As for the control scheme in general, if you haven’t played this newest version of NHL, it may seem complicated at first, but after you get used to the control scheme, NHL 08 begins to feel very natural and feels like you have more control of the players than ever before. It is worth having a few easy practise games, though, to fully get to grips as it can get very frustrating to dive straight in and struggle.
If you have played the previous NHL games this may feel a bit slower at first–but the pace is now much more realistic and the skating is much smoother. Once you adapt to this new pace, the game really comes alive. There are now much more varied ways to score goals and you can even make your own plays to help you score more. Making your own plays does add a lot of depth and more skill to the game. You can’t keep repeating the same offensive tactics, though, as now the AI picks up on this and will adapt to defend your attacks more effectively. This is what adds a wealth of variation to the game as you will have to keep varying your plays and tactics. The dynamic AI also makes the game much harder than previous NHL games even on the lower difficulty modes. It’s no easy ride and you will often find yourself unable to score.
NHL has many game modes, some of which are the same as previous years, but there are some interesting additions. Dynasty mode is where you will find the bulk of the game. This goes through season after season and allows you to sign players and manage your team. A new addition to NHL is goalie mode—this allows you to take control of the goalie from a third person perspective. It’s a good idea and is surprisingly fun, but it isn’t something that you would want to do for a whole season as a lot of the time you spend a lot of time watching the other players play, instead of playing yourself. It does, however, do a good job of showing off the intelligent AI. You can see your own players and the opposition adapting to different plays right in front of you. If you get bored with the above then why not create your own team? NHL 08 allows you to create a whole team with custom looks and attributes which can be great fun and it feels so much better to win a game with a team you have created from scratch.
An impressive part of NHL 08 is the amount of teams present in the game. There is all of the NHL, national, and AHL teams. The AHL teams are extremely good for finding new talent for your team or for working your way up which again adds more depth to the game and more challenge.
Graphically the game looks excellent, with no notable differences between the PS3 and the 360 version of the game on this front. The players in particular are very well done and are very life-like. The sound effects and commentary are well done, sporting some nice dialogue. The commentators also give subtle clues about when your opponents are changing their strategy, so it’s worth listening to them carefully.
A big part of any sports game is the multi-player. NHL is great fun with some friends and the PS3 and 360 versions can cope with up to 7 people offline. There is also online functionality, but, as with most EA games the multi-player is a little basic and does suffer from the occasional lag issues. However, it is remarkably better over Xbox Live than it is on PSN.
Having played both the 360 and the PS3 version of the game it is disappointing that the PS3 version is worse despite the console itself being more powerful. The PS3 versions suffers from an extremely ropey frame rate which can get quite annoying considering the 360 version is extremely smooth. The PS3 version however does have one advantage – you can have up to 7 players in comparison to the 360’s which is up to 4 players. I know I’d rather have a stable frame rate though than 3 more players…
If you are a hockey fan then you need this game. It’s as simple as that. Whilst it won’t last you forever, it is an extremely enjoyable game with a lot of replay value due to the online play and other multiplayer modes. EA has done a great job on the whole and it’s good to see a large improvement from the previous games. In short—this is the best hockey game yet by a long shot.
Originally Written By: Joe